It’s a very little project, but a neat one. It’s also a skill that I have wanted to learn for years. Dying my own yarn.
Yes, I know I can buy yarn in an endless array of colors.
But the process intrigues me, knowing what I do about plants and ethnobotany, and it seems like a good extension of my fiber skills.
So where to start?
I had a couple of parameters for my yarn dying:
1) I wanted to use natural, plant-based dyes.
2) I planned on sticking to yarn that I would actually use, so that meant sport, fingering and lace weight bases.
Last summer, I tried my first batch. It was a small skein of white lace weight from Knitpicks, and I dyes it with red beets. This spring, I decided on a different color. I cook with onions often, so I began saving my onion and shallot peels:
When I had a good amount (maybe one cup?), I dissolved about three teaspoons of alum in a quart of water in a large glass pickle jar. The alum acts as mordant, a substance that helps the natural dyes adhere to the fiber. I layered the onion skins with yarn (more white lace weight) and sealed the jar tight.
The I let it sit for 11 weeks. I really had not intended to let it sit for so long. (The apartment flood kind of changed most of my plans this spring.) In the end, I am glad the yarn sat in the dye for so long. Yesterday I finally opened the jar and looked at the results.
I must admit that the bright yellow is striking and I am very happy with the results. I rinsed the yarn last night and it only faded a tiny bit. It dried to a beautiful color.
It’s ~400 yards of lace weight. The only remaining question is, what should the final knitted piece be?